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Briefly: U.N. counts 5,000 displaced in Congo fighting

- - Wednesday, May 2, 2012

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

KINSHASA — Nearly 5,000 people, mostly women, children and the elderly, have been displaced because of fighting in Congo's North Kivu province, the U.N. refugee agency said Wednesday.

Clashes between Congo's army and former rebels who joined the army but then deserted have continued for days in the Masisi region of North Kivu.

Early in April, several senior military and former members of the CNDP rebel group defected from the army and regrouped as a rebel force. A local official, however, says it has reclaimed several villages in an offensive launched against the rebels.

The U.N. High Commission for Refugees this week counted at least 2,725 internally displaced Congolese and more than 2,092 refugees who fled the fighting for Rwanda.

Meanwhile, the government on Thursday blamed ex-rebel leader Jean-Bosco Ntaganda for the clashes, but Mr. Ntaganda has denied any involvement in the latest fighting.

Mr. Ntaganda was indicted on war-crimes charges in 2006 by the International Criminal Court for using child soldiers.

SOMALIA

Suicide bomber kills politicians in restaurant

MOGADISHU — A suicide bomber killed at least six people including two lawmakers in an attack in the central Somali town of Dhusamareb, officials said this week.

Witnesses said a man entered a restaurant, where lawmakers on Tuesday were meeting with the public over lunch to discuss the setting up of a regional administration, before blowing himself up.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack in the Dhusamareb, a strategic town in the central Galgadud region, which pro-government forces wrested back from al Qaeda-allied al-Shabab terrorists last month.

ZIMBABWE

Workers accuse Chinese bosses of mistreatment

HARARE — The government is investigating persistent reports of rampant abuse of workers by Chinese employers.

A team of investigators has already started visiting Chinese construction and mining companies to compile details of alleged abuses, Labor Minister Paurina Mupariwa said during the country's Workers' Day celebrations in the capital, Harare.

Labor officials say workers have complained of physical abuse by Chinese managers. They also accuse their employers of paying them less than the legal minimum, forcing them to work long hours and neglecting health and safety conditions.

Years of political and economic turmoil have seen an influx of Chinese businesses in a "Look East" policy announced by President Robert Mugabe.

The creation of the policy is meant to replace Western investors scared off by human rights violations and a black power program that envisions seizure of 51 percent of foreign-owned firms, excluding Chinese.

NIGERIA

Boko Haram releases video of smiling bomber

LAGOS — A radical Islamist sect published a video this week showing a smiling suicide bomber driving into the offices of a major Nigerian newspaper and blowing himself up in an attack that killed at least three people and made journalists a new target of the terrorist group.

The 18-minute video Boko Haram terrorists posted on YouTube includes new threats against reporters and major Nigerian newspapers, as well as the Hausa- language services of Voice of America and Radio France International.

An unnamed male speaker also threatens new attacks against Nigeria's weak central government, saying security forces continue to hold the wives and children of its followers hostage.

The video shows the suicide bomber drive a sport utility vehicle on April 26 into the Abuja offices of ThisDay, an influential newspaper. As a man softly prays, the car blows up, sending a massive fireball into the air.

MALI

Group linked to al Qaeda releases ransom demand

BAMAKO — An al-Qaeda splinter group wants a total of $60 million in ransoms for two female European aid workers and seven Algerian diplomats taken hostage, the group's spokesman said Wednesday.

Adnan Abu Walid Sahraoui of the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa gave the figure in reply to a written question submitted by the Agence France-Presse.

The two women, an Italian and a Spaniard, were kidnapped in October along with a Spanish man, while working in a camp for Western Sahara refugees in Tindouf in western Algeria.

The Algerians were abducted on April 5 in Gao in northeast Mali, as Islamist and Tuareg separatist groups overran the north of the country in the wake of a military coup in the capital Bamako.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports